Integrity in the Little Things
Here is my riddle (don’t pre-judge me): I have four children from three different women and three of my children are from unplanned pregnancies. Your thoughts are going like this – “Wow, this guy is a creep, I never knew”. Before you sentence me to a firing squad, it’s not exactly as you think. After struggling for years with infertility, my wife and I adopted our first two children (unplanned pregnancies and two different women). We then were surprised to find out that she was pregnant (after a visit to Disney) with what would be our third, but first biological (the third woman). Having enough children now, a surprise fourth showed up three years later (another unplanned pregnancy. There you have it, riddle solved, not what you thought.
So imagine what our house is like with all these different blood types, DNA strains, personality issues, etc. It’s enough to make you mad. Suffice it to say, we learn new and extraordinary things every day in our family. We don’t have a Facebook life (I should trademark that) where everything is perfect, where our kids only get A’s, are team captains, only go to Harvard, and have full scholarships. No, our life is what you DON’T read on Facebook. We have concussions, hurt feelings, sibling rivalry, normal grades (like I had). We eat pizza more than we should (a round diet), I really don’t know if I could handle living a Facebook life with a Facebook family…too fake.
Despite the disclosure above, an overall theme that DOES show up in our kids, despite the DNA potpourri, is Integrity. I’d like to think that it was taught by us, but maybe it’s at the core of their values as human beings (a discussion for another time). I’m not exactly sure, but we’ll take some of the credit nevertheless. When the kids were little and we would be out to eat as a family, we had a deal. If a stranger came up to us and commented that they observed how well behaved or delightful our children were, each of our children would receive a dollar. Let’s just say, we gave out a lot of George Washington’s. One time that we didn’t give out any money is when our oldest stood up, dropped his pants for no reason with his back side facing two couples who throughout the entire meal, glared at us and clearly didn’t want kids in the same restaurant as them. Poetic justice served. I would have liked to “moon” them too, but I’d have been arrested. We could hardly contain our laughter (but we did).
Our oldest, the mooner, is now an ROTC cadet in college and still to this day, when confronted with moral challenges, will call dad to process the situation. While in AIT training this year at Fort Lenardwood, one of the soldiers stole a few hundred dollars from another soldier. Knowing how desperate this soldier was for money as he just lost all that he had, Christopher took it upon himself to serve notice on the guilty party (who flushed the money down the toilet to keep from getting caught) and took a collection from others and was able to return the same amount that was stolen back to him as a gift and a measure of solidarity.
Caroline, our second child, sends texts of encouragement to her teammates after each game. The grandfather of one of her teammates approached me one time at a lacrosse game and went on and on about Caroline and the influence that she has had on their entire family through her texts. He credited Caroline with helping solve years of self-esteem issues in his granddaughter. I didn’t even know that she was sending texts. I thought he had the wrong girl. He didn’t, it was my Caroline. Don’t let the right hand know what the left is doing.
My third child (our first biological), would be the cause of many phone calls from his school to our house. Never the good calls. It got so bad that I began recognizing the principal’s voice. One day, I received yet another call and it surprised me. The principal said, “It pleases me to call you to tell you that JP has made a transformation. He is a leader and an inspiration to others in his class. Just today, when picking teams for dodge-ball, he had a choice to load up his team with the athletes. He instead chose the least of the boys first while the other captains chose the strongest (laughing at JP for his poor choices). JP put together a team of misfit boys that for the first time in their young lives would know what if felt like to be picked first and early. The boys got killed in the game, but JP was their captain, and all the boys went home with their head held high as they were valued in a way that they had never been valued before.”
Last night, Justin (our fourth) was in a battle on the soccer field against a determined team from Chicago. Justin is a standout soccer player and super aggressive. Two quick goals in the first half had his team struggling to get back in the game. With less than five minutes left in the game and now down 2-1, a ball went out of bounds and a player from the other team kicked the ball a country mile out of bounds to kill time in an attempt to prevent us from coming back. A certain yellow card foul, it was overlooked by the official (as was everything else in the game). I got to thinking. Does Justin have the deficient character of that boy to even think of putting himself and his team above the other team? Would he, at his core, even think of doing such a thing? The answer came shortly later. Our team tied the score at 2. With very little time left and the opponent in our end with a throw-in, as the ball went out of bounds, Justin picked the ball up and tossed it to the opposing player in quick fashion, giving them a chance to go ahead. He could have kicked it far out of bounds (like they did) and let the clock run in an attempt to hold onto a hard fought tie (a moral victory). He didn’t (and the thought never even crossed his mind).
It’s integrity in little things that show the true character of an individual. Let’s not freak out about what our kids do wrong, they all do stupid things. Remember, they are just stupid adults in training. Have you considered your kid’s parents lately? Let’s all begin to look deeper at the core of those that are important to us and celebrate their decency.